Studying, “Across the Pond” 2017/18

Jamie Agnew
LSE 2017/18

This semester has been going great! It has also been flying by. We are on spring break right now, which is much different than spring break in the United States. We have an entire month off for the break, which means we have manage our time efficiently because we have exams when we return from break. I have four exams, which are all going to be tough. There are no tests or quizzes over here, so the exam is your entire grade, which adds even more pressure. I plan on traveling a couple times during the break, but when I am not traveling, I’ll be studying for exams.

I have been traveling a lot over the past couple months. My first trip was to Budapest, Hungary. It was very Eastern European: cloudy, cold, and stark. But, it had a lot to offer including thermal baths and an elaborate parliament building. I prefer Prague to Budapest, but it was still a very enjoyable trip. The following weekend I went to Rome, which was fantastic. We were only there for 2.5 days, but we saw so much in that short time. There is so much to see in the city as it has such rich history. On top of all of this, the food was to die for. I couldn’t get enough of Italy, so I went back to Naples the following weekend. Naples itself was a huge letdown. The city was rundown, dirty, and old, but the surrounding areas are beautiful. The Amalfi Coast was one of the most picturesque places I’ve been. We spent a day on the coast. The first half of the day we were in Sorrento and then we took a boat out to Capri, which was unbelievable. The next day we went to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, which were both very cool to see. One thing I noticed about Naples was the language barrier that existed. Of all the places I have travelled to, Naples was hardest to communicate with English in. Nonetheless, we made it work.

The following weekend, I went to Krakow, Poland. We were only there for a couple days, but we were very impressed with the city. It was quite clean and the city center was packed. We took a day trip to Auschwitz, which was extremely eye opening. It was a very moving experience and it put the Holocaust in a brand new perspective.

Last weekend, I went to Dublin for St. Patty’s Day. This was a blast to say the least. Everyone was dressed in green and drinking Guinness. I had a blast that weekend. I also met alot of great people as everyone was American. I was planning on coming home for a couple weeks during spring break, but my exams end fairly early compared to others, so I decided to stay.

The time is winding down here, which is tough to think about because it is so much fun over here. London has been a great city to spend the year in, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. With less than two months left, I am trying to make the most of my time here. While I am going to be sad when I leave, I am excited to return to the United States.

May Term in Vienna & Budapest

Ethan Gaines
May Term Abroad
Vienna & Budapest

My experiences abroad in the imperial cities of Vienna and Budapest went above and beyond my previous expectations of the trip. I expected only a few statues and monuments carefully placed throughout the cities, but I learned quickly that we would easily view around a dozen during our rigorous and in-depth tours. The food was much better than I expected it would be, and there were even many American cafes and restaurants in walking distance from our hotels. I had no idea how the people there would react to American tourists, but I was pleasantly surprised by their continual politeness and kindness.
Some similarities I noticed involved the public transportation system and the security. The metro and tram systems in Europe are surprisingly similar to what we have in America, with certain times of the day being more crowded than others and its corresponding lack of personal space. It was sometimes difficult to navigate around the city because of the strange names such as Schwedenplatz and Blaha Lujza Ter, which were the two districts where our class stayed, but we got used to it by the end of the trip.
From this life changing experience, I learned that different parts of the world, at least America and Central Europe, were not so different from one another. They all honor their traditions and history’s. I also learned a little about myself on the trip, such as how easy it was for me and the rest of the class to absorb all of the information thrown at us and how we were able to quickly immerse ourselves into the respective cultures. The three weeks there flew by so quickly because it really did feel like a second home.
What I will miss most from my study abroad experience will be the experiential style of learning in the classroom. Instead of being lectured to in the classroom for four hours a day, going out with the class and seeing it for yourself made to so easy to learn the material. Experiential learning was exhausting, but I will remember every single day of class on this trip.

Classes in Costa Rica

Arthur White
Costa Rica
Fall Abroad 2018


The very first slide of the very first orientation presentation very poignantly said of Costa Rica, “welcome to Costa Rica, where eating too much is the new normal.” Having been here for a short stint already, I can fully assure you that the program director, Rodney, was not joking.

Most morning, Iliana prepares fried eggs, some form of meat, an assortment of fruit which always includes papaya, various types of bread, and occasionally gallo pinto. This last one is a very popular dish in Costa Rica and consists of rice, beans, and various ingredients that are often left-over from dinner the previous nights. Like I said, we don’t have gallo pinto every day, but it is popular enough that several other IFSA students have it every morning, and at McDonald’s for breakfast you can order a McPinto Deluxe, which is scrambled eggs served with a sausage patty, two hot tortillas, gallo pinto, and a sour cream-based sauce called natilla. I would say that lunch is usually standard fare, like sandwiches and such, but we’ve also had omelettes with chiles rellenos and a personal favorite, so far, sopa de mondongo, which is a slow-cooked tripe stew. Personally, I’m already a big fan of tripe, so Iliana was very happy to hear I was excited for and enjoyed lunch that day. Most days dinner is really a wild card, my first day we had chicken fajitas, made with a small chicken that she had slow-cooked all day it was mouthwatering.

While I think that Iliana’s cooking is some of the best food that I have had in the country, Tico fare is very, very delicious and often very varied. My friends and I have gone to a creperie near campus twice now and I’m still not terribly sure how I feel about a chicken and mushroom stuffed crepe, served with a potato and beet salad, but it was definitely a new experience. As I type this, I can already imagine several reactions of, “but you’re in Central America, why are you going to a french eatery?” A fair question, I assure you, but surprisingly, or not as Costa Rica is a country with a strong tourism economy, the people of San Jose and Heredia are a diverse group. Just within a mile of the university’s campus a person could choose from crepes, shawarma, pizza, and Asian fusion, in addition to the numerous Tico and Caribbean food spots.

One of my favorite restaurants so far is a place on the edge of the central valley called, Sibu. Sibu is a pretty awesome place with roots in Costa Rican cuisine but kind of more high-end. Sibu’s real claim to fame is its incredible fresh fruit juices, flavored with herbs grown in their garden, and also its made-in-shop from scratch chocolate, cocoa fruit to bar. When we arrived at Sibu, we all received a small complimentary hot chocolate, and when I say it is the best hot chocolate I have ever received, I don’t exaggerate. We ate our lunches, and finished off with dessert, Iliana and her sister splitting a gorgeous tiramisu, and I, a drink called chorotega. When I ordered the drink, the waiter’s face lit up and asked if I had any idea what I was ordering, and in broken Spanish I replied, “nope it’s like fancy hot chocolate, right?” And he laughed, thankfully took pity on me, and explained the drink’s background in English, but one of the owners of Sibu is a historian, and as such wanted to serve a drink that is as historically accurate to the cocoa-based drink that the Aztecs drank. It was a rich dark chocolate drink, based in water, with almond, chipotle, and sweetened with honey. Truly, one of the most delicious things I have ever had in my entire life, I convinced some friends to make a trip with me soon just to try it again.

I seem to have caught myself with in a pattern of tying things up nicely with a closing thought, so this week, for obvious reasons, I want to talk about the late Anthony Bourdain. Until recently, I was not familiar with his work until a close friend recommended Parts Unknown to me at the beginning of the summer. Of all the things he spoke about, Bourdain’s most pertinent belief was that to grow as a person, you had to travel and eat local, wherever you went. So, while I may not be super extremely excited to try cow tongue for the first time, later this week, I’ll be chewing on this quotation from Bourdain, “you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” Here’s to learning all I can about Costa Rica and the people I meet here through the foods that they love and choose to share with me.

I’ll write again soon, nos vemos.


As part of orientation, Esteban gave us an introduction to local fruits which we probably hadn’t heard of before, and it was a collection that ranged from granadillas to mamónes chinos.






A picture my friend April Vollmer took of the infamous chicken and mushroom crepe, served with fresh lemonade, salad, and patatas.

Classes in Costa Rica

Arthur White
Costa Rica
Fall Abroad 2018


For those wondering what life is like in a country where you have the conversational skills of a child, if that, I can assure you that the experience is a humbling one. Starting at the very beginning, people who may not know me that well may not know that I’m a Spanish major. In conflict with this fact, I only started formally learning Spanish in the fall semester of my freshman year of college. The past two years have been trying; between my grammar knowledge from three years of Latin and the conflicting vocabularies of English, Latin, and Spanish, I have felt like I have been running in circles: using Latin words, throwing in the wrong preposition or pronoun, leaving out words entirely.

Things changed almost immediately after arriving in Costa Rica; suddenly I had to be speaking in and listening to Spanish 90% of the day. In the US, I can always leave my Spanish when I leave the classroom or put down whatever book I’m trying to read in Spanish, but I don’t have that crutch here in Heredia. Three days after arriving, I caught myself beginning to “just think, instead of translating each sentence,” as my friend Grace described it when we talked about our experiences so far. I have very clear memories from the past few semesters at H-SC in which I am listening to fluent Hispanic speakers and all I heard was “estoy hablablablablabla,” the words zooming around me like hummingbirds; currently, as I type, my host mom Iliana is in the living room watching the nightly news and I feel as if everything has slowed down to a manageable speed. I can finally hear distinct words when a person is speaking at their normal speed. Do I know exactly what the Ticos are saying, and can I form concise responses and conversation with them every time? No, but this breakthrough is a good start I think.

When it comes down to speaking, the biggest indicator that you, as a speaker, are doing well is that there are no indicators, no furrowed brows or little interjections. While many Ticos in the central valley have some level of English, often most people have little to no experience with speaking English, and in a way, I’m thankful for this barrier. I’ve been told that I’m the kind of person who has never met a stranger in my life. To have a barrier in communication is like having to walk through a wet and muddy field barefoot, which is to say extremely not ideal for several reasons. Because of the distance between myself and the Ticos linguistically, I’ve been pushing myself hard to achieve a level of conversation where I feel comfortable walking around Heredia. Adjusting to a different language is a big challenge for sure but daily conversation has begun to help me familiarize myself with sound of Spanish conversation. But, for now, as I wait for my ears to catch up, I’ll settle on bolstering my vocabulary with a Spanish language edition of The Shape of Water.

Finally, classes start this week and I couldn’t be more excited and equally terrified. So, here’s a closing thought, the tag line for The Shape of Water is “prepare yourself for a connection that goes beyond words.” While my number one focus in Costa Rica is to become more fluent in the language, there are so many experiences that I am gaining already from my time here, outside of my language learning. In a few weeks or so, when I’m at my wit’s end with my Advanced Spanish Syntax course, I’ll come back here to remember to look back on my experience so far, as a whole, breathe, and diagram that last sentence.

I’ll be writing again soon, nos vemos!

After a long day, I enjoy a good book and a cafecito in the mall, Paseo del las Flores, near my homestay.

Classes in Costa Rica 2018

Arthur White
Costa Rica
Fall Abroad 2018


I have been in Costa Rica now for three days, and what is there to say but I still cannot believe that I am in Costa Rica. Before this past Tuesday, I had never left the country. While I did live in Hawaii for a few years and in a way that’s a whole different country, nothing could have prepared me for the first time I stepped out of the Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose. The first thing that I came to recognize about Costa Rica, or at least where I have been so far, is the fact that the country is so incredibly active. I walked out of the airport door and there’s a small army of taxi drivers waiting to give you a ride; in Heredia, where I will be taking classes, there are always cars and always pedestrians doing their best not to get run over; even around my homestay in San Pablo, which is a suburb of sorts, people are constantly around hanging outside their house or walking to their jobs.

In all seriousness, I feel as though the “Tico” culture of always being outside is very tied to the wonderful climate that Costa Rica, and specifically the central valley, has to offer. Every day the temperature is between 60 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and there’s a very good chance that every area will receive just a little bit of rain. An interesting impact of the weather here, is the absolute uselessness of the weather app; fun fact: when the weather forecast says, ‘there is a 30 percent chance of rain’ what the forecast actually means is ‘within the forecast area, 30 percent of the prediction area will receive rainfall.’ So, when at least 90% of the forecast area receives just a tiny bit of rain, the forecast probably says 90% chance of rain, as it always does in San Jose, it is a good idea to always have a rain jacket, hoodie, or hat.

I arrived, stayed for a day at a hotel, and now I’m at my homestay. My “mama tica”, as IFSA-Butler refers to our host parents, Iliana lives about two miles from the Universidad Nacional campus, and we are slowly getting accustomed to being around each other. Iliana lives with her two dogs, Gia and Coco, and she is an incredibly talented cook, but I’ll be talking all about food in a different post. But now, to finish here’s a closing thought for future-me, for any other students studying abroad, for anyone thinking about studying abroad, and for all my friends and family back home having trouble starting ‘that new thing’. Whether or not you are a fan of Bojack Horseman, one of my favorite quotations from the show is as follows, “it gets easier, every day it gets a little easier, but you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part.” Over the past few days it has been easy to get frustrated over my language skills or the difference in culture, but when I learn to let it go and keep moving, then I begin to progress. Even within the time I’ve been here, I’ve gone from nodding mindlessly to responding, as best as I can in Spanish , and occasionally in English, but that is okay because it may be hard now but each day it gets easier.

For now, nos vemos!


Shortly after we arrived, the estudiantes estadosunidenses had to get a picture together. Yes, I am the only guy, and yes, it is a bit of a big change from good ol’ H-SC





As part of our orientation, we all took a trip up to Monte de la Cruz on the outer edge of the Central Valley. The view was incredible and impossible to fit into one picture because it was so large, but the yellow jacket squad tried its best.

May Term in Vienna & Budapest

Ethan Gaines
May Term Abroad
Vienna & Budapest

Over the three weeks we were in Vienna and Budapest, we toured so many amazing museums and magnificent monuments. There was almost too much history in these two cities, which made it difficult to fit all of these historical sites into the schedule.
In Vienna, we saw two incredibly appealing palaces in the Hofburg Palace and the Schloss Shonbrunn with its beautiful gardens. For museums, we toured the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum of Military History, the Wien Museum Karlsplatz of Vienna’s history, and the Jüdisches Museum Wien of Jewish history, life and religion in Austria.
In Budapest, we saw many more museums. We toured the Hadtorteneti Museum of Military History, Buda Castle for the history of Budapest, and the House of Terror and Holocaust Memorial Center which exhibit the tragedies of World War 2 and the Holocaust. On our last day in Budapest we hiked up Gellert Hill to see the Freedom Statue as well as the amazing view. Lastly, we were able to go inside the Hungarian National Assembly that was possibly the coolest and most beautiful place I saw on the entire trip.
In our free time, we visited the Tiergarten Schönbrunn (The Vienna Zoo) which is one of the best in the entire world. In Vienna, we also visited the Seegrotte Hinterbruhl which is a large underground lake and cave system on the outskirts of the city that offers underground boat tours. In the early twentieth century, the cave was used for mining expeditions and there are currently many memorials in the cave dedicated to the Hungarian miners.

May Term in Vienna & Budapest

Ethan Gaines
May Term Abroad
Vienna, Austria & Budapest, Hungary

When we first arrived to Vienna, we started in a suburban town on the outskirts of the city that looked very similar to Virginia. Then, we traveled by bus to our hotel in the middle of the city and we immediately witnessed the grand architectural structures and monuments that made Vienna so beautiful. This major urban area had numerous restaurants, bars, and cafes we would later venture to after class. Budapest offered much of the same, but often times we had to take the metro as our hotel was not in the center of the city.
For class in Vienna, we only had to go a few floors down in the hotel where we had a conference room set up for lectures from Dr. Frusetta and Dr. Glont. Before class, we were given complimentary breakfast in the hotel with a traditional European breakfast consisting of sausages, deli meats, and many different kinds of croissants. In Budapest, we needed to take the metro one stop away to a separate building for class.
Both our hotels in Vienna and Budapest were very nice with employees who were also kind and helping. I would say that the biggest difference between living at home and abroad is the lack of air conditioning. During our may term, it was regular 90 degrees or more so we had to get used to the heat. I should have packed more shorts and sun screen.
There was excellent food in both cities. Schnitzel was easily the best meal I had in both cities, and the food stands in Vienna along the Danube river were cheap and delicious. Also, during our class excursions all over the Vienna, we would often stop to get a quick snack at the many tasty pastry shops that served some of the best croissants and donuts I have ever eaten.

May Term in Ireland

Daniel Newberry
May Term Abroad
Dublin, Ireland

Ireland has been an amazing experience, with so many new places to visit and people to meet from across the world! Summer at University College of Dublin has been an amazing opportunity. I love learning about conducting business in international settings while meeting people from all around the world!
Since we arrived, life on UCD’s campus has been interesting. I woke up at 9:00 everyday and got ready, then I would walk to Centra, a small market, to pick up a pastry and coffee on my way to class. I would be with a group of friends from time to time, but I tended to walk by myself and explore the campus before class. I would always see people eating with their friends outside of the Centra or walking to class while looking around and admiring the campus. The business center was not far away from where we were living, and from 10:00am to 1:00pm I would be in class.
Afterwards, most of us in the program would get lunch together. The cafeteria was conveniently next door to the business center, and we would sit down and eat really, good food that we normally would not experience at any other college cafeteria.
After lunch, we normally took naps before either going out or doing homework, unless we had an early excursion into Dublin. We lived in a chain of apartments buildings called the Glenomena Student Residencies, which had three apartments per floor. I lived on the second floor (or first in Europe) and had a nice room with a bathroom, desk, and wardrobe; six of us shared a common area fitted with couches, refrigerators, and a stove. The apartments were very clean and pristine and didn’t seem very old at all. Most of UCD is still expanding at a fast rate with new halls! I personally found my room to be smaller than a Hampden-Sydney room-smaller than the Carpenter rooms-but the bathroom was definitely a plus. As time progressed, I found that I had less space to put things away, just because I bought so much! There were some books, hygiene products, and some clothes that I wish I could’ve left home; I packed a little more than I needed to, but I had everything I needed!
Whenever we went out, I noticed that many people don’t wear shorts, except for Americans. Everyone seems to wear khakis with either a t-shirt, polo, or button up. By the end of our first week, I could already tell who was American and who wasn’t just by clothing styles. However, there were other ways of telling if someone was American. As said by someone back home: “we walk around like we own the place.” I didn’t think it was true until I came to UCD. I usually wore khakis (occasionally jeans) with a button up, which is normally my style in the United States. I would say that I fit in to the point that Irish speakers would come up to me at a museum and ask me questions, as if I knew Irish! It must have been the red hair.
During the trip, I also noticed how the Irish have a different perception of time than we do. The sun sets later than in the United States, around 10:00pm, so the towns are always full of actively late into the night. People seem more active due to the increased amount of daylight throughout the day. It wasn’t terribly hard to adjust to eating dinner at 9:00pm, but it certainly felt off. Normally I eat at 5:00pm, so going an extra few hours is always weird, but well worth the wait. The food in Ireland fills you up fast because it’s so hearty and thick! My two favorite meals were Beef and Guinness stew-namely the one found on the fifth floor of the Guinness Storehouse-and seafood chowder with soda bread. Lamb was also popular at all restaurants that we went to, and I can say lamb is definitely a new favorite as well. Overall, the nightlife proved to be fun. Since people were always up late, it was always interesting to see what people were doing throughout the day: working and shopping followed by dinner at a pub or going out to a club to dance. There was always something going on.

May Term in Spain

Ryan Tomlin
May Term Abroad
Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Given the fact that I have never traveled and hadn’t done much research on Spain, I didn’t have a lot of expectations coming into the trip. I will say that the trip has been an amazing opportunity for me. Again, since I had not ever traveled or spoken a foreign language for a month, I had no clue what to expect. From the very beginning, this trip took me out of my comfort zone. I was ill-prepared for the language, culture, travel, etc. Because of that, I learned so much more than Spanish on this trip. I learned a lot about myself. Not only did my abilities in Spanish grow, but I also learned a lot about myself. I have gained a lot of confidence from overcoming challenges that I had never expected. I also gained experiences of travel that I had not yet had the opportunity to have. Therefore, I am extremely thankful for the time that I have spent in Spain.

When I leave Spain, I will most definitely miss my host family most. I have discussed them a little bit in my blogs, but they have been very supportive and kind during my time here. I am extremely thankful that they were kind enough to take my roommate and I in for an entire month, feed us, wash our clothes, and most importantly help us advance our knowledge in Spanish. I have grown close with both my host mother and brother. I will not forget the transformation I have gone through during this trip. Now, I wish that I had talked to my host parents more during the first couple days because I will most definitely miss them.

Again, I recommend that any student should study abroad if they are given the opportunity. I have learned so much more by immersing myself in the language of Spanish, than I would have studying at Hampden-Sydney. On top of that, I enjoyed the entire experience of travel. If you are a student that enjoys leaving your comfort zone and travel, then study abroad will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience for you. Moreover, I suggest that if you are a student interested in studying abroad, make sure to research the area that you are going because I didn’t, and I believe that I made a mistake. As I said in an earlier blog, I experienced a little culture shock when I landed in Spain and I think that had I researched the area more, then I would have known what to expect. A little bit of research will help you to hit the ground running when you get to the area that you are studying. This will allow you to maximize your experience in your respective country.

Overall, I am ready to return to the United States to see my family and friends and return to Hampden-Sydney College. On the other hand, I will not forget the month I spent in Spain or the memories that I have made. I plan to come back to Spain in the future, as well as travel more after my time at H-SC. For every student that reads this, you should study abroad. It’ll be some of the best credits that you earn during your time on the Hill.

May Term in Münster

Donald Barry
May Term Abroad
Münster, Germany

Visiting State Parliament

Nearing the end of my trip here in Münster I can honestly say that it has been a blast. Individually I have met many unique and friendly people around the city. As a group we have recently been able to meet with a Parliament representative for North Rhein – Westphalia and see how the laws are made for the state we are staying in. I found it very interesting to see the State Parliament where laws could be made to impact the family of my favorite local döner shop, or the school that we study at in the city. We often think that just because something is foreign that it is beyond comprehension, when in reality it is closer to home than we were led to believe.

scenic church view

Our final day of class is Wednesday and we leave for our final destination of Berlin Thursday before departure. Saying goodbye to my host family will be close to saying goodbye to my own family. The program has selected amazing people to host us and make us feel welcomed for our stay here in Münster. I will probably miss the day to day living the most. I will miss stopping at the same bakery every morning before class to grab a small snack before class. I will miss seeing the husband and wife that own the local döner shop and having conversations about the soccer game from the previous evening. Most of all I will miss family dinner time where everyday my house family and I would sit down to a homemade meal and recollect on our day and laugh over small jokes.

Anyone considering studying abroad should stop considering and just do it, and those who have not considered it should start to.